Matt’s Mind: Previewing the 2012-13 NBA Season (Predictions and Power Ratings)

The start of the 2012-13 NBA regular season is finally here!  Here are some of my thoughts and predictions heading into the season:

-I’m glad we don’t have to hear if LeBron is good enough to win a championship, can he be clutch in the fourth quarter, blah blah blah.  He shut everyone up with a dominating performance last June.

-The Dwight Howard insanity is over!  This got old in a hurry listening to him flip-flop on being traded most of last season.  I was glad the Magic just said we’re done and shipped him out of town.

-What do the Bulls look like knowing D-Rose is gone for at least half of the season? The Bulls played well for the most part without him last year but that was knowing he could be back. Now they enter the season with talent but without their catalyst leading them. They should still be a playoff team but aren't a contender in the East.

-I’m really interested to see how the Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant connection works in LA.  Kobe has never had a creative point guard like Nash so he has to be excited he won’t have to create his own shot every possession.  Nash should get him at least a few easy buckets each night.

-The battle for New York.  With the Nets having high expectations having moved into the new arena in Brooklyn, they are trying to chip away at the Knicks fan base.  The Nets are going to be better than they’ve been since their back-to-back finals teams but I don’t think they finish where the Knicks do.

-I thought this would be the year Minnesota returned to the playoffs but the loss of Kevin Love for a few weeks to start the year could keep them on the outside.  He’s one of the league’s best players and the few games they will lose while he’s out could be the difference in sliding in the playoffs or waiting for next year.

-This could be a great rookie class.  I think there are several players that can be big contributors right away.  See below for my top five rookies.

-The Royce White saga is something I’ll be following.  I wish him well with his battle against a debilitating anxiety disorder and hope he’s able to play most of the year.

Now onto my predictions for the 2012-13 NBA Season:

Rookie of the Year:
1) Anthony Davis (Hornets)
2)  Thomas Robinson (Kings)
3)  Bradley Beal (Wizards)
4)  Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
5)  Harrison Barnes (Warriors)

Anthony Davis is the most hyped rookie since Tim Duncan.  I think he’ll make a big impact for New Orleans but he’s coming to the NBA off of one year of college basketball, not four like Duncan.  The wear and tear of 82 games I think a lot of players will challenge him down low so it’ll be interesting to see what his shot block numbers are this season.

Coach of the Year:

1) Vinny Del Negro (Clippers)
2)  Doug Collins (76ers)
3)  Mike Brown (Lakers)
4)  Rick Adelman (Timberwolves)
5)  Avery Johnson (Nets)

I think the Clippers are as deep as any team in the league and getting Chauncey Billups back should give them the veteran leader they need.  Vinny Del Negro will craft this team into a division winner this year and the Western Conference playoffs should go through Lob City.

Most Valuable Player:
1) LeBron James (Heat)
2)  Derrick Rose (Bulls)
3)  Chris Paul (Clippers)
4)  Rudy Gay (Grizzlies)
5)  Carmelo Anthony (Knicks)

LeBron James is simply the best basketball player in the world.  He’s found a way to balance his ability to dominate games and keep his teammates going as well which you rarely find in a superstar player.  A couple of point guards will put up big years but James’ win total will make the difference to the voters.

NBA Finals: 
Miami Heat over Los Angeles Lakers This has to be the NBA’s dream to have these two teams with all their stars collide for the title.  I think the Lakers will become cohesive in the second half of the year and battle their way through the Western Conference to meet the Heat.  LeBron will be waiting to get his second consecutive championship and move up the list of all-time greats.

Here are my NBA Power Rankings for Week 1 of the 2012-13 Season. These will be updated each Monday of the regular season. Check out the Sports Formulator projected regular season records for each team during 2012-13 .

(1) Miami Heat - They're the defending champs and are my pick to repeat.  No major changes impacting them.  They should cruise through the regular season.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder - Still a very talented team and I expect to stay one of the league's best despite dropping four straight in the NBA Finals.
(3) Los Angeles Clippers
- Lob City is very deep and talented. Chris Paul will orchestra the best season any Clipper fan has ever seen.
(4) San Antonio Spurs
 - A team with a lot of miles on the key players but has great coaching. How do they handle 82 games this year? Does Popovich rest them a lot?
(5) Denver Nuggets
- A deep team that should be able to challenge in the West.
(6) Los Angeles Lakers
 - They've got to learn how to play together but that'll come a couple months into the year and you'll see them go far in the playoffs.
(7) Memphis Grizzlies
- Lost some depth but that might not be a bad thing. Still have a lot of talent but just not enough to challenge the top of the Western Conference.
(8) Boston Celtics
- Ray Allen is gone from the Big 3 in Boston. If the young guy mesh with the vets early could be another deep run for the C's.
(9) Indiana Pacers
- A talented bunch but they'll have to learn how to keep composed to challenge the Bulls and Heat in the East.
(10) Chicago Bulls
Even without Derrick Rose, I think the Bulls will still lock down on defense and grind out wins.
(11) New York Knicks
- Can Woodson get them to play defense? Can Carmelo and Amare play together? Linsanity has left town so fans will be focused on the stars and expect them to win or someone's leaving town.
(12) Philadelphia 76ers
- I think this team will be improved. A full training camp under Doug Collins helps mesh the roster changes and if Andrew Bynum comes focused and healthy, they'll be a good squad. (13) Portland Trail Blazers - Not a flashy team drawing a lot of attention but they could surprise. Good young talent in Portland will have them challenging for a playoff spot.
(14) Atlanta Hawks
- Joe Johnson was jettisoned to Brooklyn so now someone else will be counted on to deliver when they need a basket. Who will it be?
(15) Brooklyn Nets
- They're in the new arena and have some roster moves that should make them more competitive. Avery Johnson can coach so he should get this team near .500 and in the playoffs which will be a great step forward for them.
(16) Utah Jazz
- A fringe playoff team but I think will find a way to have a winning season.
(17) Golden State Warriors
- Mark Jackson has had a training camp to get his message across to the Warriors and I expect them to be much improved. Steph Curry needs to stay healthy if they want to make the playoffs. Look for Harrison Barnes to make a solid contribution as a rookie.
(18) Houston Rockets
- Jeremy Lin has struggled mightily in the preseason. This is a team trying to rebuild and will rely on Kevin McHale to mesh a lot of new pieces together.
(19) Minnesota Timberwolves
 - If Kevin Love were there, they'd be a playoff team. Rick Adelman is a great coach and will have them ready every night. Next year look out for the T-wolves!
(20) Dallas Mavericks
 - You will hardly recognize the Mavs compared to their title team of two years ago. Dirk is injured and the Mavs won't make the playoffs this year.
(21) Milwaukee Bucks
- They take a step back this year. I just didn't like the Monte Ellis trade last year and wonder what they're trying to do in Milwaukee.
(22) Detroit Pistons
 - They're a team on the rise but are still a couple players away from being a playoff team. (23) Cleveland Cavaliers - Kyrie Irving stays healthy and Bryon Scott gets this team to believe and they'll be better. Still a couple years away from challenging in the East.
(24) Toronto Raptors
- Toronto always seems to be tough at home and struggle on the road. This year should be no different.
(25) Washington Wizards
 - If John Wall gets healthy, he should make a nice backcourt combo with rookie Bradley Beal. They still needs more talent to sniff the playoffs though.
(26) New Orleans Hornets
 - If Austin Rivers can contribute they could surprise people. I think they're a year away from competiting for a playoff spot in the West.
(27) Orlando Magic
- A major roster overhaul due to the Dwight Howard trade. It's gonna take time to put this team back together.
(28) Phoenix Suns
 - A team that's in rebuilding mode and will not have Steve Nash to run the offense. It's gonna be a long season in PHX.
(29) Sacramento Kings
 - This team has some talent. I think Thomas Robinson will be an impact player right away but their is so much uncertainty in this franchise. I think the clouds overhead will keep them from reaching their potential this year.
(30) Charlotte Bobcats
 - I just can't see this team being much better than last year. They've got a new coach and a few new players but nothing shows me they'll be much more competitive. Be sure to check our daily predictions on NBA action here at Sports Formulator!